Vignetting the Compost
It’s a pity that Vignetting the Compost, English producer Bibio’s new album, arrives in stores as winter gets its second wind: the folksy Nick-Drake-by-way-of-Boards-of-Canada songs on the album are the perfect soundtrack for freshly blossoming flowers and frolicking forest creatures.
Sounding as though it were recorded by wood elves on holiday, Vignetting is certainly unique. Although he calls the largely electronic label Mush home, Bibio would arguably fit better on the roster of Asthmatic Kitty Records, where his simple arrangements and mystical acoustic plucking could fit perfectly alongside Sufjan Stevens. This isn’t to say that Vignetting lacks the ambient electronic textures or looped found-sound samples common to Mush artists; instead, the album seemingly takes pride in its simplicity and the gentle beauty of a lightly plucked acoustic guitar over digital tampering.
At times this approach can get a little trying, particularly on the tracks without vocals or those that push the vocals so far back in the mix that it creates the impression of watching a movie from across the street. Still, with repeated listens these tracks sound more coherent and begin to feel like pieces of a soundtrack bridging scenes from a film together. Tracks like “Odd Paws” and “Flesh Rots, Pip Sown” are particularly cinematic, at times recalling Mark Mothersbaugh’s score for Rushmore.
Nonetheless, Vignetting’s best moments can be found when where Bibio allows his voice to take center stage. Standout track “Great are the Piths” is especially indicative of this, with Bibio harmonizing with himself like a one man Fleet Foxes, upping the much hyped indie folksters in the process. Although it’s certainly curious as to why Bibio didn’t include more songs like “Great are the Piths,” Vignetting is still such a cohesive and fluid work that to remove any one piece or to alter it in any way would undoubtedly lead to a jenga-style crash. Like a wonderfully subtle film, the album seems simple and pulls the listener in without effort, only revealing its intricacies and complexities with subsequent listens.